A Threefold Cord: Strand #2 – The Practical Preacher

James 1:22
       But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): The great end and design of all endeavours for knowledge, should not be to rest in speculation, but is to be furthered in practice―It does not matter how well one be acquainted with the general truths of the gospel, if there be not a conformity of practise.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): You can recognize many things on paper, but what really matters is what you do in practice.

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): The glaring disparity between theology and practice among professing Christians is a more destructive evil in its effect upon the Christian religion than Communism, Romanism and liberalism combined.

LORD SHAFTESBURY (1801-1885): Christianity is essentially practical, and I will maintain this, that practical Christianity is the greatest curer of corrupt speculative Christianity. Nothing is more likely to keep you from mischief of all kinds, from mischief of action, of speculation—from every mischief that you can devise, than to be everlastingly engaged in some great practical work of good.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Take also the practical preacher; who would say a word against this good man? He stirs the people up, excites the children of God to holy duties, promotes every excellent object, and is in his way an admirable supplement to the two other kinds of ministers.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: That is not true preaching which fails to apply its message and its truth, nor true exposition of the Bible that is simply content to open up a passage and then stop. The truth has to be taken into the life, and it has to be lived. Exhortation and application are essential parts of preaching.

HENRY FOSTER (1760-1844): We should lead them to practical business of life―into their shops.

C. H. SPURGEON: But—sit under the practical preacher; sit under him all the year round and listen to his people as they come out. There is one who says the same thing over and over again—“Do, do, do, nothing but do.” There is a poor sinner yonder just gone down the front steps. Follow him. “Oh,” says he, “I came here to find out what Christ could do for me, and I have only been told what I must do for myself.” Now this is a great evil, and persons who sit under such a ministry become lean, starveling things.

JOHN DAVIES (circa 1798): Practical [preaching] may lead men to rest on moral duties.

C. H. SPURGEON: I would that practical preachers would listen to our farmers, who always say it is better to put the whip in the manger than upon the horse’s back. Let them feed the people with food convenient for them, and they will be practical enough; but all practices and no promise, all exhortation and no sound doctrine, will never make the man of God perfect and zealous for good works.

A. W. PINK: The substitution of so-called “practical” preaching for the doctrinal exposition which it has supplanted is the root cause of many of the evil maladies which now afflict the Church of God. The reason why there is so little depth, so little intelligence, so little grasp of the fundamental verities of Christianity, is because so few believers have been established in the faith, through hearing [doctrine] expounded and through their own personal study of the doctrines of grace.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: That is why doctrine is so vitally important. There are certain people who very ignorantly say, “Ah, I’m not interested in doctrine, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m saved. I’m a Christian. Nothing else matters.” Well, of course, to say that is to court disaster for this reason: that the New Testament itself is the book that warns against that very danger…You remember that the Apostle Paul in writing to Corinthians says, “evil communications corrupt good manners,” I Corinthians 15:33. By which he means this: that if we go astray in our doctrine, eventually our life will go astray as well.

A. W. PINK: Doctrine means “teaching,” and it is by doctrine or teaching that the great realities of God and of our relation to Him—of Christ, the Spirit, salvation, grace, glory, are made known to us. It is by doctrine (through the power of the Spirit) that believers are nourished and edified, and where doctrine is neglected, growth in grace and effective witnessing for Christ necessarily cease. How sad then that doctrine is now decried as “unpractical” when, in fact, doctrine is the very base of the practical life. There is an inseparable connection between belief and practice—As he thinketh in his heart, so is he, Proverbs 23:7.

A. W. TOZER: A doctrine has practical value only as far as it is prominent in our thoughts and makes a difference in our lives.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: This is the apostolic way of doing that. The apostles believed that the best way to help Christians is to teach them the doctrine and then to apply the doctrine to them.

HENRY FOSTER: If a minister states the doctrine, and applies it to practice, he will benefit many.

R. L. DABNEY (1820-1898): Let the preacher hold before him, through the whole preparation of the sermon, the one practical effect intended to be produced upon the hearer’s will.

ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748): Do not content yourself to compose a sermon of mere doctrinal truths and articles of belief, but into every sermon (if possible) bring something practical. It is true, knowledge is the foundation of practice; the head must be furnished with a degree of knowledge, or the heart cannot be good: But take heed that dry speculations and mere schemes of orthodoxy do not take up too large a part of your composures; and be sure to impress it frequently on your hearers, that holiness is the great end of all knowledge, and of much more value than the sublimest speculations; nor is there any doctrine but what requires some correspondent practice of piety or virtue. 

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: We have got to act on our faith. There is no point or purpose in reading the doctrine and understanding the teaching if we do nothing about it. We have got to translate it into practice.

JAMES DURHAM: No sooner should folk be clear in a duty but instantly should they set about the practice of it. Men’s practice should be according to their knowledge…Whatever knowledge Christians have, it will never further their peace, except their practise be suitable.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The proof of true faith is that it is practiced―that it shows itself in action.

LORD SHAFTESBURY: Therefore, I say to you, again and again, let your Christianity be practical.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Let us practice what we know.


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